Tauranga City Council's proposed revamp of Tauranga's downtown waterfront is just what the city needs.

Overwhelming public support has helped drive the first round of decisions to spend $3.2 million to develop the plan.

City councillors this week agreed to press ahead with preparing detailed designs on the plan to build tidal steps down to the harbour's edge in front of the children's playground and Hairy Maclary statues.

The design concept incorporates a pier and pontoon and was prepared after the council decided earlier this year to spend $8 million over the next 10 years on the downtown's streetscape, parks and waterfront.

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The project could be finished by next Christmas if the council calls for tenders for the design phase this year.

A report to this week's council meeting included 220 email and Facebook feedbacks received directly or indirectly by the council, plus comments from visitors to the recent boat show.

A recurring theme was that it was a great idea and should have been done much earlier.

"It is great to see more people using the area already, and much more can be achieved. Hopefully the development at the old Coronation Pier site will bring activity to the end of Red Square again. Please commit to the whole concept and do not scale it down half-way through, as has often been the case," a resident wrote.

I agree.

The plan promises to connect the downtown area with the harbour, the city's finest asset. Tauranga's stunning waterfront should set the scene for an extremely attractive downtown precinct.

The redevelopment plan is a long overdue step and has the potential to breathe new life into an area which has struggled with heavy competition from suburban malls. In recent years, concerns have been expressed about the number of empty ground-floor shops in the area and the drift towards malls, which have free parking, and the rise of online shopping contributing to a period of decline.

Some believe that the days of downtown Tauranga being a retail hub are gone. I don't believe they are right.

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Town centres provide a focal point and an identity. They also provide an environment where small boutique stores and food outlets can thrive. They should be about variety and atmosphere.

In my view, an inviting, accessible waterfront area with high-quality public spaces would do much in attracting shoppers back into the central city. It would probably attract more out-of-town visitors too.

We need a bold plan to draw people back to Tauranga City. This plan could be just the ticket.